Sports ‘n’ Things: Count down to puck drop

"...the first full Smoke Eater game for 2015/16 will take place in exactly two weeks."

Hard to take in, when it is above 40C on our deck for days on end, but the first full Smoke Eater game for 2015/16 will take place in exactly two weeks.

That will be the first of four exhibition games for the Smokies, all leading up to a season start on 9/11 and the first home game of the season a day later.

The Nitehawks, who have seven exhibition games on their schedule, also begin for-real play on 9/11 and have their first home contest a day later.

The scheduling conflict repeats the following weekend, which is too bad for both clubs, who will be competing for weekend fan turnout three times during the first month of the season.

Things will be better in that regard mid-September for the Nitehawks, as the Smoke Eaters will be on the road for almost three weeks after their Sept. 19 tilt with Merritt.

Scheduling conflicts have been slightly reduced the past couple of seasons, but still occur often enough to hurt the bottom line of both local clubs. What with the number of actual hockey fans apparently shrinking, that can pose a problem for the bottom lines of both.

The Nitehawks keep rolling along, producing season after season of excellent results. The Smoke Eaters, at least in part due to budget considerations, consistently struggle to achieve even a round of post season play – often despite providing high quality hockey entertainment.

We are in the season of hope, again, however. Nitehawk fans are hopeful and confident, of another exciting post season run for their club. Smoke Eater fans are fingers-crossed hopeful of at least a return to the post season for a team which may contain as many as half a dozen local kids and has roster returnees that showed (the dreaded) promise last year to go with a couple of highly touted new signings.

It comes down, for Trail, to a good start. Even lackadaisical, “Home of Champions,” so-called fans will eventually turn away from whatever screen is eating their minds on game nights to support the top level of local hockey if the team is highly competitive.

What may really need to happen, if Trail is to maintain its junior A franchise over the long term, is for more sponsors to follow Dan Ashman’s lead and  guarantee longer term support for the club so it can plan in a longer term way.

However it all turns out, I am looking forward to the rollout. Fans looking more forward than I can begin scouting the junior hockey potential of the area in just about a week, with both teams training at Cominco Arena in preparation for the season from that time.

Season tickets for both teams are, of course, available right now.

See you at the rink.